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Ferns in the forest garden

 
                              
Posts: 262
Location: Coast Range, Oregon--the New Magic Land
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I've moved a couple sword ferns in with some native berries(not sure if they are regular raz's yet tho), since here they grow together with the black raz's.

Can you give me a couple of keywords to make my google search better for finding out about companion properties of ferns?

I'm also eventually going ot move in some native lady ferns--the fiddleheads are good to eat, but they need some good shade so I'll wait for a few fruit trees to mature a bit. The sword ferns can take more sun.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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i have had ferns invade some of my mixed beds, I was pullling them out as there were just so many of them..I don't know if i would put them on purpose in an edible garden myself as they can be awfully invasive..but i have some different types of ferns put on purpose in some shade gardens by my cherry trees.
 
Trevor Newman
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I would advise going out and observing ferns in their natural habitat..look at their associates and perhaps replace them for similar but more useful plants. For instance, you may find ostrich ferns growing near lilly of the valley, you could replace this for wild leek which has a similar growth habit. I would recommend growing ferns with Giant Solomans Seal, Ginseng, and Wild Ginger. Ostrich ferns are superior for use as a vegetable, I like to fry the fiddleheads in an egg/flour batter.

Brenda, I know this might be a sensitive topic, but the word 'invasive' just doesn't seem appropriate..sure they're aggresive and 'opportunistic' but to me 'invasive' implies some sort of motive or intention. Depending on the fern you have, their spreading habit may be of great use if they're edible(ostrich/cinnamon are good)- more fiddleheads to eat!!
 
                              
Posts: 262
Location: Coast Range, Oregon--the New Magic Land
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thanks!

yes, sword fern and lady fern(close cousin to the ostrich, or perhaps fraternal twin) grow from a "crown" rather than a running rhizome(like a bracken fern), so these aren't that invasive at all. It takes FOREVER for them to spread, since they spread by the spores.

Yes, I've seen the ferms growing with the native black raspberry on the forest edges, they intermingle I guess, the berries coming in from the sun and the ferns coming in from the forest. Def companions with the SOlomon's Seal, Wild ginger in the wetter spots.

SO could I take a further step from leek to garlic/onion?

I def want to get some wild ginger in there after I get a good shady spot going.

Thanks!
 
                              
Posts: 262
Location: Coast Range, Oregon--the New Magic Land
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PS, also have brought in some licorice fern. THat grows in thick moss on trees or rocks, so been experimenting with logs. It's a rhizome but does not grow in ground soil. Licorice fern is edible, the rhizomes were used by the NA for sore throats.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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the aggressive ones here are common bracken, i do however have other ferns purposely growing in my gardens in some shadier areas..i do tend to pull the bracken ferns when they get too happy where they are.
 
Paul Cereghino
gardener
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Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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Miner's lettuce (Montia spp.) likes the wetter side of sword fern range and the drier side of lady fern... I bet the seeds are coming due soon.
 
                              
Posts: 262
Location: Coast Range, Oregon--the New Magic Land
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Here is a bed where I put a couple sword ferns. This is a "new" bed, it was a spot whre I would throw slash for a few years, small branches, corn stalks etc, and had built up a good layer of soil. I noticed the berry vines coming up and tied them to some sticks. I'm not sure if they are my red raspberry, or a native blackberry or black raspberry--doesn't matter, whatever is good! I will plant some more raspberries into this bed. And some strawberries when my plants send out runners later.

So you can see with the ferns came some Miner's Lettuce/SPring Beauty(the tiny pink flowers). ALso snowberry already in there(it spreads in there from behind the fence). Above it on the fence(two rolls high) there are grapes(small white table). I threw some rotten wood on there because that's how it is in the woods

My question about ferns is what do they do. I see their fronds make mulch, was curious what the ferns contribute to the mix. I want to transplant a few lady ferns into here, once I see what kind of berries those are.

one more thing, the photo is taken form the south, there will be corn planted in front of this bed (like a king sized mattress worth)
 
paul wheaton
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fwiw:  sepp holzer says that where you see ferns, that's a great place to plant potatoes and sunchokes.

 
Matt Ferrall
Posts: 555
Location: Western WA,usda zone 6/7,80inches of rain,250feet elevation
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When I bought my place in 97,it has nothing on it other than forest.I have found ferns very easy to dig up in my sandy soil and have never lost one to drought even when dug in june.I have saved every one(over 1k).I use them to deliniate between people zones and wild zones.They provide lovely evergreen edging.I am so buisy weeding out grasses that Im pretty nutral on most everything else(ok I hate buttercups too).Ferns are silica accumulaters(I thought)and their size makes them perfect for under trees or shrubs and if they get too big,one blow with a machete will set them back.
 
Matt Ferrall
Posts: 555
Location: Western WA,usda zone 6/7,80inches of rain,250feet elevation
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Ostrich fern has been easy to naturalise for me and I`m exploring expanding production to a more commercial level.Bracken is agressive true,but has a long history of use by peoples around the world.Currently,there is huge demand for the young stalks called "gosari" in the korean markets.The shoot is broken as far down as possible and the starting to unfurl leaves are stripped off.The stalks are parboiled until limp(to remove the toxins) and then dried for storage.Oddly,NA indians devoped edible uses for the root(pounded cakes).Now we have both knowledges to draw from!
 
                              
Posts: 262
Location: Coast Range, Oregon--the New Magic Land
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paul--thank you! interesting! awesome! (love that Holzer guy!)

mt goat--that is interesting to hear about what you're doing too. I do have the bracken fern elsewhere around the prop in a few places, but it's not invasive, I just pull it up and keep a few stalks for pretty--I figure it kinda starves the rhizomes and keeps the spreading vigor under control. On the other hand there is plenty of other vegetation so naturally the bracken fern would be transitioning out anyways.

Do you have pix anywhere of what you're doing? I am in transitional oak savannah/doug fir forest (for a technical description), so I have a lot of native species from both worlds.
 
Emerson White
Posts: 1206
Location: Alaska
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Consistent jargon is important.

Invasive plants are those plants that imperil a habitat by invading it once they are introduced, Dandelions in Oregon aren't a big problem (I think, I do not know this), but here in Alaska with our long days they will take over and crowd out our native meadows, starving native herbivores who evolved to eat grass not dandelion (this I do know). Similarly Kudzu was fantastic in Boston when introduced to halt erosion but when it was released in the deep south it went nuts and really covered and killed many rich bio-diverse habitats.

Since Bracken is cosmopolitan (literally it grows everywhere) it cannot be introduced to a new habitat (because it already grows there) so it cannot be invasive. It can however be aggressive, crowding out plants that you want, covering them (beautifully) and preventing you from getting all you want out of your property. Bracken is carcinogenic, so best not to eat it.
 
Matt Ferrall
Posts: 555
Location: Western WA,usda zone 6/7,80inches of rain,250feet elevation
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I have introduced braken fern  to drier areas by transplanting the (edible)rhizome in the fall.It was dug and pounded into cakes by the natives here.It was a staple,esp.for the"middle class"as it grows on poorer soils which were the "commons"here.There is a scientific study that shows braken to be carcinogenic to cattle when fed while fully open.Often in wild foods,a toxin in a plant can be nutralized through proccessing.Cooking/parboiling is used on braken.I live near the best braken grounds North of Seattle.I have collected several articals from the seattle papers on its use esp. in korean foods.Every year the roads here are lined with families picking for their winter supply.The stalks have so much volume,its not uncommon to see them lugging huge garbage bags full around.
 
Emerson White
Posts: 1206
Location: Alaska
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I think that the fiddle heads lead to increased incidence of stomach cancer, despite their widespread use as a vegtable, I do not know how strong an effect it is, but it would seem to be positive causing cancermaybe even polluting water supplies.

ETA: Also on jargon, you transplanted them to the drier areas, you did not introduce them, they were in your area millions of years before you were.
 
Matt Ferrall
Posts: 555
Location: Western WA,usda zone 6/7,80inches of rain,250feet elevation
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Emerson,I think most people here understand what we are saying even if it might be a scientific missuse of the word.I would be interested in hearing about your actual experiences with ferns in the forest garden and believe that would be a positive way for you to contribute here.I have also transplanted/introduced licorice ferns to landscaping around my property.After cutting down a tree,I pull all the moss and licorice ferns off.What I dont dry into tea,I use to cover exposed logs ect.I have read and experienced it to have a better flavor when grown on rocks.Maiden hair fern is the most beutiful and I move those to moist areas out of the way.Deer fern likes soils high in organic matter and on my poor soil,I have noticed an actual corrilation between deer paths and it(as deer prefer food grown in good soil).It took me 10 years of watching and tracking the deer on this place before I relized it!
 
Emerson White
Posts: 1206
Location: Alaska
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This is scientific jargon, but simple jargon, and also gardening jargon, not scientific jargon. Yes people get what you say, but that's germane to the problem I brought up, it's people thinking you are saying something else too. We have a great diversity of words, and it takes a community effort to keep it that way. If someone were taking Burpee super sweet F1 hybrid corn and selling it as an heirloom sweet corn they would be endangering our biodiversity of sweet corn, just like using the wrong jargon endangers our diversity of jargon. No one steps in to correct the misuse and then when we want to say introduced or invasive we cannot, because those words no longer have that sharp crisp meaning they once did, sure the burpee sweet corn will do for many things, but maybe a disease comes along and that biodiversity of the heirloom is really what you need, and you are SOL and have to go to great lengths to do now what you could do before with just a single word, or seed. 
 
Matt Ferrall
Posts: 555
Location: Western WA,usda zone 6/7,80inches of rain,250feet elevation
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E,I didnt mean to imply that its anything less than perfect that you spend your time and energy to find slight semantical/scientific errors and bring them to our attention.A problem Ive had cultivating lady fern for frond production on my site is that spiny wood fern is mixed in and impossible to differentiate.It makes you sick.Wood fern likes it alittle drier and I have found pure stands of lady fern on wet heavy soils.
 
                              
Posts: 262
Location: Coast Range, Oregon--the New Magic Land
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thanks Mt Goat! that's interesting about the licorice fern better tasting when grown on rock. I appreciate your input and I understand perfectly what you're saying.

skookum tillicum 2 u
 
rose macaskie
Posts: 2134
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    Its interesting about the bracken and ferns, i hadn't a clue you could eat them, it interresting about deer liking things grown on good soil and  i am happy thinking of mt goat tracking his deer to find out about them and am thinking of people with sacks full of ferns, my image bank has increased.
    Emerson Whites comment this time did serve to define different concepts to remind of differences, to find neat ways of naming them, not just to warn off because of dangers.
    mt goat says he has great plates of wild greens, and after accounts of ferns i beging to be  curiouse about his domains. rose
 
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